The Falcons wretched 2019 season – for all intents and purposes – came to an end last night after another underwhelming performance against their division rivals, who ended up clinching the NFC South in the process.
From the opening kickoff, Atlanta did not look prepared (shocker). They began by going three and out on their first possession, which included a sack – one of nine (yes, you read that right) on the night. And before Falcons fans could even settle into their seats, the Saints were in the red zone due to a blocked punt by who else other than Taysom Hill. The jack-of-all-trades quarterback beat his blocker on a one-on-one, came rushing in, and tipped the ball with his left hand. Four plays later, the Saints were in the endzone, as Hill caught a pass from Drew Brees to open up the scoring.
A couple of possessions later, the Falcons had their chance to tie but failed on a fourth-down conversion at the two-yard line, wasting a nine-play, 73-yard drive. However, the defense came to play in this one, forcing a three-and-out to get Matt Ryan the ball back, and this time, he would answer the bell. The Falcons marched down the field on three quick plays, ending with a touchdown pass to Jaeden Graham – the first touchdown of his career. Younghoe Koo would miss the extra point, though, leaving Atlanta down one.
The Saints responded with a field goal of their own, as Will Lutz knocked it in from 22 yards. That would be a trend in this one, as the Falcons had a clear disadvantage in the kicking game – a problem for them all year. The very next possession, The Atlanta’s 55-yard drive would be wasted by Younghoe Koo, who missed his second kick of the night, this time from 42 yards. However, despite several injuries coming into the game and lots of undisciplined play, Atlanta was somehow right in the game; they just could not avoid shooting themselves in the foot. But it didn’t take long for things to get out of hand.
Brees and the Saints offense followed Koo’s missed kick with a four-play, 68-yard drive for a touchdown, which was capped off by a 30-yard run from Taysom Hill, who has quickly become one of the most hated men in Atlanta.
After a field goal to make it a one-score game before the half, the Falcons continued to kill themselves with their own mistakes to begin the second. Their first four offensive possessions went, punt, interception, interception, fumble – opening up the door for the Saints to take command, and they did, but only behind three field goals, as Atlanta’s defense held steady all night, which almost ended up paying dividends at the end.
Despite being down three scores, the Falcons kept fighting, scoring a touchdown with about five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Then they attempted an onside kick, which they recovered not once but twice because of a questionable offsides call. Still, they had the ball, and Younghoe Koo was able to make it a one-score game with about two minutes to play.
The Falcons had all of their timeouts left, but given their success with the onside kick last time around, they went for it again… and got it. It had to be one of the craziest things I have ever seen, and it gave the Falcons a real chance at tying the game up, which seemed impossible just moments ago.
However, Atlanta’s most glaring flaw reared its ugly head when it mattered most, as Matt Ryan was sacked three times to end the game, giving the Saints the division. The Falcons offensive line has been one of their many Achilles’ Heels this season, beginning with the first play of the season from scrimmage, which ended with Ryan on his back. Injuries haven’t helped, but given all that was done this past offseason to ensure the quarterback was protected, and absolutely nothing improved – things probably got even worse – Thomas Dimitroff’s future has to be in serious question.
The same can be said for Dan Quinn, who after two quality performances, seemed to have a chance to save his job. But after these past two weeks, I don’t see how Arthur Blank continues with him as the head coach. This organization needs a complete overhaul from top to bottom, and I have a feeling that is what we will be seeing come black Monday. Another year of the Matt Ryan and Julio Jones era has been wasted, and It is past time to pull the plug on the whole operation.